Dialogue with an Anti-Corbyn Labour supporter

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(Published now, rather than when it was written because it lost relevance when…  given the convenient coincidence of Article 50 and two tricky by-elections…. a second coup looked all too likely.  This threat has fizzled out for the moment, although another attempt to unseat Jeremy Corbyn may well materialise if Labour loses in Stoke and/or Copeland.  Posting now was also prompted by John McDonnell’s warning  ‘This daily grinding out of distortion and attack can undoubtedly have its effect on our standing in the polls and in turn on the morale of some of our supporters, who are not always close to the action and may not be experienced in past trade union or political campaigns’.)

Dear Person,

We met the other day, and you told me that you had only joined the LP to vote against Jeremy Corbyn,

I asked you if you had actually seen any of Jeremy’s speeches or the debates in the leadership contest?

You did have the grace to look shamefaced as you shook your head… Then you countered:

“But, but I do read the ‘good’ newspapers, the leftwing papers like the Guardian and the i”

Rendered speechless at the idea that the Guardian or the i were leftwing, I stuttered:

“Did you really think Owen Smith was more electable… a man who makes penis jokes??”

But what I should have said was:

Reporting in the MSM is largely without reference to context or history… and typified by criticisms such as Corbyn’s lack of success in winning back Scottish votes. This is reductive to the point of misleading but not new. However, there have been a number of recent academic led studies which have looked at media bias and concluded that the coverage of previous Labour leaders were ‘nowhere near as destructive, as vicious and as antagonistic as is the case now with Corbyn’. One such study indicated that 75% of press coverage misrepresented him and expressed serious concern for its impact on the democratic process.

Furthermore, many of these stories have been fed to the media by hostile members of the LP elite who are rabidly anti-Corbyn, and acting against the expressed wishes of the overwhelming majority of the LP membership.

They justify their behaviour by arguing that Corbyn is unelectable and not a good leader. However, this is hardly convincing when it is clear that they will fight tooth and nail to make it impossible for another more (in their view) ‘plausible’ but similarly leftwing candidate to replace Corbyn. For example, they could agree to reduce the number of nominations required from the PLP to stand for the leadership, from the current 35 to 5.

But they won’t do that because, just like Hilary Clinton, they believe that ‘it’s their turn’ and that the LP can return to being two shades left of the Conservatives and it will suddenly be electable.

This is the complacency and out of touchness that led to Donald Trump being elected. And a fact, that Peter Mandelson acknowledged when he blamed three terms of New Labour for Brexit and a majority rejecting globalization.

But in any event, the undue focus on Corbyn also ignores the plight of neoliberal social democratic parties globally.  As Stephen Bush wrote in the New Statesman:

Across the continent, just two centre-left parties regularly outpoll Corbyn’s Labour: the Portuguese Socialists and the Italian Democrats, the latter of which averages 30 per cent on a good day. And of the two politicians held up as examples by Corbyn’s internal opponents – Matteo Renzi of Italy and Manuel Valls of France – one suffered a self-inflicted defeat in 2016 and the other looks likely to join him in 2017.

Labour’s Corbynsceptics have not yet accepted that the party’s problems do not start or end with the leader. They describe him as an insurmountable obstacle to victory in 2020, but the bigger problem for them is that he has also proved an insurmountable obstacle to their thinking about the party’s long-term future.

http://www.newstatesman.com/2017/01/jeremy-corbyns-internal-critics-have-compelling-diagnosis-they-dont-have-cure

 

It’s not that I have an uncritical relationship with the current Labour leadership but I’m not going to jettison Corbyn and co with all their really good points and policies when there is no comparable candidate who would get the nominations required.   Furthermore, I have no doubt that JC is staying on for the same reason. I don’t know how on earth he stands the constant twisting of facts, delegitimisation and misrepresentation.

Then you would have replied:

172 MPs passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn!

And I would have suggested that you read this review of Gaye Johnson’s book with its introduction by the late Michael Meacher:

A systematic analysis of the biggest internal coup d’etat in the history of the Labour Party. It contains a wealth of hitherto unreported material of how this was achieved. The Blairite machine gathered and fostered its own panel of ultra-reliable potential candidates (often special advisers of existing MPs) and helped to train and prepare them for the day when winnable seats might become available, exactly as the Blairite ‘Progress’ faction continues to do within the party to this very day.

And the legacy of this takeover remains. The leader may be Jeremy Corbyn, but the MPs, party officials, leaders in local government and many more remain the excrescence of a bygone era. Party employees especially have a long history of right-wing bias and working against left-wing candidates. A former Party Director of Communications openly boasted in 1998 of how he had worked to label the Grassroots Alliance slate for the NEC as “hard left”. Party staff are known to grade Conference delegates according to their loyalty to the leadership and harass delegates about how to vote. Staff themselves were pressured to behave in a certain way by the increased use of short-term contracts.

Many of the powers of the NEC were delegated to hand-picked subcommittees in the New Labour era. Labyrinthine policy filtering mechanisms were introduced, undermining the sovereignty of Party Conference.

http://www.organizedrage.com/2016/12/book-review-new-labour-was-gain-worth.html

 

Then I could have said:

The pivotal moment was the PLP coup when the rebel MPs revealed their true colours, either politically or indeed in moral cowardice.  It was much more important for the prime movers to remove the leftwing leadership than it was to hold Cameron and Osborne to account for their gross irresponsibility and hubris.  It said it all.

At that point, many in the LP membership realised that these rebels MPs were not on the same side as themselves and that being elected on another neoliberal, New Labour platform was worse than useless.

Blair, Brown, Mandelson and the rest, were able to do things that the Tories would not have been able to do and we let them because they did increase funding public services  but in reality it was not enough… and the door was left wide open for the Tories to walk through in 2010 and defund, sell-off and privatise.

As for Jeremy Corbyn’s electability, a friend wrote to me:

Most people want a more equitable distribution of income and sourcing of tax, adequate funding of the NHS, increased public sector funding and management of social care, and investment in services and job creation, support for the integration of migrants and prevention of their exploitation, and that a Labour Government would deliver them. None of these measures is ideological, and the people supporting them within the party or in the population are not ideologues. They are ordinary people, and they rather like Jeremy Corbyn because so is he.

I agree.  And thank you to the Person who I met the other day, who told me that they had only joined the LP to vote against Jeremy Corbyn.  You showed me how unerring George Orwell and Chomsky were in recognising that the propaganda of the elite is contained in the quality press, aimed squarely at the educated middle classes.  Needless to say I think there are a lot of people out there who need to take their blinkers off.

https://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/pdf/JeremyCorbyn/Cobyn-Report-FINAL.pdf

 

 

 

 

Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like

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Who is Charlie?  Not #Tories!  Scrapping our Human Rights? No Way!

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Who is Charlie?

Less than a year ago there was a global outcry, about awful scenes in Paris leading to murders. The victims were expressing their right to free speech through the tool of cartoons. All through history  music, poetry, and satire have been arts through which thoughts can be expressed and shared. It is all part of being human. Can you remember when people carried placards saying, “Je Suis Charlie”, and “I am Charlie?”

Demonstrators in Paris unity march

People took to the streets, and were united in horror and determination. As Suzanne Moore commented at the time in the Guardian. She observed that:

Uncertainty is indeed gut-churning, but more and more it is intrinsic to our freedom. Rigidity, finite values, texts that can never be questioned? This is what we must fear. Those drawn to terror cling to an ideology that allows not a glimmer of uncertainty. To doubt is to be weak. Ambiguity is a threat.

At that time, Mr Cameron, defended the rights to free speech, at least is recorded to have supported the cartoon. As such a defender of free speech, I imagine therefore that he will also defend the right to free speech of resident in Bristol, who has used the medium of Art to depict Mr Cameron as a danger to the future of the NHS.

PAY-Tony-DavisThe Daily Mirror reports that Tony Davis, faces prosecution if he refuses to remove it, he could eventually be fined up to £20,000 under the Town and Country Planning Act.

Tony said: “I’ve had a notice of prosecution. If you are a commercial premises you can advertise anything but if you are a private premises you are restricted to a size of 2ft by 3ft.

“But this applies to hoardings – not something that is painted on the wall like mine is.

“Also my question is, what exactly am I meant to be advertising?”

Which brings us to the question of why, when there was such an outrage about the events in Paris last summer, are we facing an onslaught of rights, removal of freedoms of which must be defended. Much of the media, newspapers, the News in BBC is controlled by those who seek to control a population which outnumbers them, and in the UK, a government which does not have the majority support of a population, has power to change laws in a parliament which is supposed to serve the people.

Very adept at distraction policies, or scare-tactics, the BBC is neither, neutral politically, or independent, even though it still is respected by the belief in neutrality by many.  We have asked the question before, Who pulls the strings at the BBC? Now the Guardian reports how Tory officals threatened the BBC during the recent election.

Baldwin writes: “BBC executives and journalists have told me that there were regular, repeated threats from senior Tories during this election campaign about ‘what would happen afterwards’ if they did not fall into line.

He says: “It is a disturbing suggestion that a democratically elected government would seek to stamp on and silence dissent from an independent broadcaster.”

But he claims there “has been a long-standing campaign by the Conservative party, fueled by the commercial interests of sections of the press, to attack the world’s most successful state-funded public service broadcaster as a giant leftwing conspiracy”.

And so they hold power, while the scales of justice are so unbalanced they appear to have have a pivotal screw loose. Power could be easily toppled by exposure of truths and myths which has led to the imbalance of truth. The Tories are terrified at the idea of a collective knowledge of truth. Divide and rule, as always, is their aim. They overcomplicate issues leading to doubt and confusion.

This is why we must defend everyone’s  rights of expression through the Arts, the Internet, Blogs. Even if sometimes we don’t agree with them.

If we have a right of freedom of expression, then we also have a right to access information which our representatives are seeking to cover-up because of their own self interest. We are not talking about securing our safety, and protecting the vulnerable. Throughout history many have founght for our rights, from the Tolpuddle martyrs, to the suffragettes, to those who fought against Nazis in the 20th century.  This is not something to be cast away because Mr Gove has the power.

We must oppose the Conservative Government in their attempt to remove human rights.  Gove plans to scrap the policy of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 

The Human Rights Act is a piece of law, introduced in 1998, that guarantees human rights in Britain. It was introduced as one of the first major reforms of the last Labour government.

In practice, the Act has two main effects. Firstly, it incorporates the rights of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic British law.

What this means is that if someone has a complaint under human rights law they do not have to go to European courts but can get justice from British courts.

Secondly, it requires all public bodies – not just the central government, but institutions like the police, NHS, and local councils – to abide by these human rights.

Which rights does the Act cover?

The Act covers all the rights included in the European Convention.

These rights are: Right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment, right not to be held as a slave, right to liberty and security of the person, right to a fair trial, right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime, right to a private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to marriage, right to an effective remedy, right not to be discriminated against, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, and the right to an education.

The Act also imposes a duty upon governments to provide free and fair elections. 

38 Degrees Campaign to Save Human Rights Act:

If you haven’t already, please sign now. Link.

Trade treaties like TTIP are arranged in secret because those who will benefit from them are a very small minority, and exposure in the public domain would ensure they would be quashed. There is no wisdom in complacency of belief that in the UK because we are some distance from the incident in Bangladesh where a life was lost just because a man had an opinion, we are therefore safe.

The struggle for free speech, for free inquiry and for the liberty of atheism need not be a fight against religion, unless religion is opposed to human dignity. It is a struggle against cowardice and conformism, and against everyone who would crush both truth and imagination into a cramped coffin of orthodoxy.

Protection of rights, freedoms, and those whistleblowers who dare to speak out is tantamount in preserving the last chance for the voices of the people to be heard and shared – if indeed it is not too late for democracy to have a voice at all.

REFERENCES anad FURTHER READING

Michael Parenti – Lies, War, and Empire (2007)

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Michael Parenti – Lies, War, and Empire (2007)

The superb Michael Parenti at Antioch University in Seattle – as relevant in 2014 as in 2007.

Lecture 1 hour then Q&A.